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In Iran, it’s been „business as usual” for years. Despite the impact of economic sanctions made against the country over recent decades in an effort to influence Iranian policy, „the country has not been completely isolated from the international arena,” says Pari Namazie, an Iranian-born consultant with intercultures. From her perspective as co-owner of Atieh International, a business partner of intercultures with offices in Tehran, Iran and Vienna, Austria, „there has been quite a lot of international business” in Iran—and more to come as sanctions are gradually lifted. (See also 3-minute video below of intercultures interview with Pari Namazie on Iran.) „As hard as the sanctions were,” says Ms. Namazie, „it actually made Iran and Iranian companies more resilient.”

From 2017 onwards, intercultures—in collaboration with Atieh International—will be the exclusive provider of global skills development in Germany, and one of few international providers offering support for teams and individuals working in Iran and/or with Iran.

A cultural symbol

It is intentional that the opening photo for this feature article does not picture—with all due and gracious respect—an Ayatollah[i]. The image of a religious leader—while relevant to modern Iran—does not reflect the full picture of the country, and may reinforce a limited and inaccurate perception.

Instead, we sorted through photos from our recent visit to Tehran, and selected the image above of the Azadi Tower (meaning „liberty”; formerly named Shayad, meaning “King’s Memorial”). Like the smooth lines, pop of color and upward arch of the cultural symbol that is the Azadi Tower, the business opportunity in Iran is uniquely attractive.

See also our July 2016 e-newsletter article, The 'Middle East’ Is Not What You Think.

More solutions for intercultural competence development in Iran

By end of this year, you can expect that intercultures will have increased our current capacity to support your business in Iran—while maintaining the senior Iranian culture consultants with whom you may already be familiar. In collaboration with our partner in Iran, Atieh International, intercultures has run a train-the-trainer workshop in Tehran with experienced, local Atieh trainers to cover key topics in intercultural competence development. Support from intercultures will continue virtually.

In the coming year, customers can expect competent and comprehensive service offerings to meet a range of scenarios:
  • Inpats (inpatriates)[ii] who move to Iran on short or long-term assignment;
  • International project management teams located in Iran;
  • Proactive and reactive interventions related to team development and leadership coaching.
intercultures is equipped to deliver services in more remote locations of Iran, as well.
After his most recent work trip to Tehran, intercultures’ Managing Director, Stefan Meister, returned with a mental list of Iran’s business assets, including, and not limited to:
  • An internal market of approximately 80.2 million inhabitants[iii];
  • Relationships with geographic neighbors—though not always peaceful, as in the case of Iran and it’s now amicable relationship with Iraq;
  • A modern-minded society living in a 1970s or 80s infrastructure;
  • An adult literacy rate of 85%[iv];
  • And, according to Stefan, a highly educated—if not always highly skilled—workforce.

After multiple rounds of sanctions against Iran over the past three decades, the withdrawal of international sanctions against the country provide increased access for foreign companies to start (re)developing business and/or looking for collaboration partners and customers.

Experiencing Iran’s diverse culture

Beyond the world of business, Stefan observed the complex mix that is contemporary Iran. While listening to live music in a plaza and moving himself to the music, he noticed that Iran “is a culture that has a government that does not allow its citizens to dance in public. This is a culture that has learned to dance while sitting, and without others noticing that they’re dancing. Despite all of that, they can still be happy and enjoy life and be incredibly generous.”

Iran’s uniqueness

For him—and perhaps for you, too—Iran was a missing puzzle piece in his experience of our world’s map. “This is not the Arab world,” he said; nor is Iran the Middle East. The language of power in Iran is Farsi, and the country is considered a part of the West Asian region. Because of Iran’s uniqueness, it is a country and a culture to get to know on its own—and sooner than later. After all, Iran is open for business as usual, and more business competition is now crowding in.

A discussion with Pari Namazie

Working with Iran- now or in future? Work better globally with us. intercultures Consultant for Iran, Pari Namazie, is interviewed in this edition of intercultures’ 2016 vlog series. Click to view the video! This 3-minute video is released by intercultures as a part of our 2016 Vlog Series. It features Pari Namazie, a consultant working with intercultures, who is also co-owner of Atieh International, a business partner of intercultures’ with offices in Tehran, Iran and Vienna, Austria. intercultures’ Director of Global Network Communications, Malii Brown, facilitates a discussion about the current state of affairs with international business in Iran; what informs Ms. Namazie’s perspective on Iran; and what can help inform our perspectives on working with Iran. #WorkBetterGlobally

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[i] Those who carry the title are experts in Islamic studies such as jurisprudence, Quran reading, and philosophy and usually teach in Islamic seminaries.

[ii] In business terms, an inpat (impatriate) is transferred from corporate headquarters to a country where the corporation has a subsidiary. An expat (expatriate) is transferred from the foreign subsidiary to the country of the corporate headquarters.[iii]  Source: Worldometers (Sept. 2016 estimate).[iv] Source: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) (2008-2012). Includes persons aged 15+ who can read and write.

Credit for photo of Azadi Tower: Stefan Meister.

Source for regional map: By Cacahuate, amendments by Globe-trotter and Joelf (Own work based on the blank world map) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Source for flag of Iran: By Various – URL https://www.isiri.org/portal/files/std/1.htm and an English translation / interpretation at URL https://flagspot.net/flags/ir’.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3662823.

Credit for screenshot of Pari Namazie: Youtube Screenshot.

The above article was included in our Sept. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter.